What do they eat? Where do they sleep? Who cares for them?
Weekly Grocery List|
1/2 case apples
20 lbs. bananas
6-8 lbs. grapes
1/2 case oranges
2 pints blueberries
Other seasonal fruits
10 lbs. carrots
1 case romaine lettuce
1 case green leaf lettuce
1 lb. spring mix
1 case sweet potatoes
1 case corn
1 lb. yellow squash
2-3 green peppers
1 case kale
Other seasonal vegetables
150-200 lbs. frozen meat
3-4 lbs. whole herring
5 dozen eggs
In the commissary (animal kitchen) there are detailed diets that our Commissary Keeper follows to create the meals for every animal. This ensures that each animal gets a balanced diet specific to that animal's nutritional needs. A professional zoo dietitian, vet(s), and or other experts are consulted when an animal's diet is changed. Some of the diet sheets are simple but many contain variations to give the animals a more enriching diet. Keepers not only watch to see what the animals eat and how much, but animals are also weighed regularly to ensure that they are maintaining a healthy weight.
The Brandywine zoo has a long grocery list of fresh fruits and vegetables that must be bought, but luckily the produce is delivered directly to the zoo. Along with the regular grocery list browse (shoots, branches, twigs, etc., often containing leaves) are another important part of many animals' diets. These items provide not only important nutrition for the animals but they also encourage natural feeding and foraging behaviors.
As with the vegetation there are a lot of meats that the zoo uses on a regular basis. Frozen meats are ordered in bulk and thawed as needed to maintain freshness. The meats that are kept on hand at the zoo are: chicken breasts, chicken quarters, whole feather on chickens, beef shank, beef knuckle bones, whole rabbits, and chicks. Along with these meats we also feed our carnivorous animals prepared meat diets produced by Nebraska Brand Meats.
Many of the animals at the zoo receive dry pelleted type foods to supplement the fresh produce and meats. These dry foods are produced by Mazuri and are designed to be fed alone or along with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. A few examples of these dry foods are insectivore, leafeater biscuits, and new world primate.
At The Brandywine Zoo we utilize Operant Conditioning as a means of training our animals to exhibit specific behaviors. This form of training relies on the animal's motivation without any form of physical punishment to teach a behavior. In the most basic sense this is a three step process composed of a cue, the bridge, and a reward. The cue is the command, which may be audible or visual, which is specific to each distinct behavior. The bridge is used to mark the precise moment that the animal performed the correct behavior is achieved again this is often audible and is typically a whistle or a clicker so that there is no sound variation between trainers. Unlike the cue the bridge stays consistent for each individual animal. Finally the reward is given after the bridge, as support for the bridge. Rewards can vary depending upon what motivates the specific animal the most. For example our bobcat is the most motivated by ground turkey so this is often used in her training sessions.
Goals of Training
Animal training is beneficial not only as a means of enriching the animals' life at the zoo, but also for the safety and care of the animals and staff. The following are some of the behaviors that we commonly train our animals to exhibit. Station can be used to get an animal onto a scale without the keeper having to physically move the animal. Target allows the keeper to move an animal to a desired location; target may also be used as a way to train a more complex behavior. An animal might be trained to open its mouth or to stand up on its hind legs so that a comprehensive visual examination is possible.
AZA defines enrichment as "dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals' behavioral biology and natural history." Meaning that when considering ways to enrich an animal their natural instincts and aspects of their native habitat should be taken into consideration. The goal of enrichment is to introduce elements to the animal's life that not only keep them interested but also reinforce natural behaviors. In a zoo animals do not have to worry about many things that would be a concern in the wild. Nutritious food is provided, predators are none existent, and medical care is given on a regular basis. While this gives the animals a more stress free life it can also remove the animal's sense of control and choice. Life in the wild provides natural changes and variations that an animal would have to interpret and interact with.
Types of Enrichment
Enrichment can be organized into various categories based either on how the item(s) are given, what they are made from, or how they are perceived by the animal. These categories are not mutually exclusive and therefore there is overlap from one group to another.
- EEDs (Environmental Enrichment Devices)
- Might be items such as boomer balls, puzzle feeders, boxes, browse and hay.
- Things relating to one of the 5 senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, and vision)
- Novel, in a puzzle feeder, hidden, or in a different form (frozen for example)
- Social Groupings
- Many animals live in flocks, herds, or other groups in the wild. Including a
social aspect in a zoo setting can be very important for the animal's mental
and physical well being. These exhibits may consist of same or mixed species
- Behavioral Conditioning (training)
- Not only is training important for medical and safety reasons, but it is also a
great mental stimulus.
Otter: Target Training
Bobcat: visual cue
Tiger: Bridge (whistle) and reward (goat milk)